Grayson County Shelter closed until March 15

“Sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite,” is a phrase often repeated in homes with small children. The purpose of the statement these days seems to be the lazy rhyme of the second and last words in the phrase.

At the Grayson County Shelter in Denison, and in countless hotels, motels and dormitories nation-wide, the phrase has taken on new meaning. The bedbug has made a bit of a comeback in the last four or five years in this country.

The Grayson County Shelter is now closed and is likely to stay that way until March 15 while the staff does some remodeling, some exterminating and what Director Ashly Earls called, “a real good cleaning.”

Earls said the shutdown happened about two weeks ago, but it wasn’t just about the bedbugs the staff had been battling for a couple of months.

She said all of the Shelter’s residents were transferred to other facilities. “Some were veterans who went to into veterans programs,” and one family, she said, was moved out of the shelter into their own place.

“It was a perfect time,” she said, to do some remodel work that had been needed, including removing carpeting from the bedrooms that contained it.

Carpeting, one might say, is a bedbug’s second best friend. The best being, of course, a bed.

Web MD says bedbugs “are small, oval, brownish insects that live on the blood of animals or humans. Adult bedbugs have flat bodies about the size of an apple seed. After feeding, however, their bodies swell and are a reddish color.” The site said that under the right conditions bed bugs can develop fully in as little as a month and can reproduce three times a year.

John Teel, Grayson County Health Department director, said that although they are a nuisance, bedbugs do not transmit diseases.

What they do, however, is aggravate the people exposed to them. The bugs live on bed clothes, furniture and carpeting and bite humans using those things. The bites are tiny, and most people don’t feel them, Teel said, until the next day when they start to itch. Web MD says that a bite turns into a welt which can appear on any part of the body that came into contact with the surface covered with the bugs

“Because bedbugs live solely on blood, having them in (a) home is not a sign of dirtiness. (One is) as likely to find them in immaculate homes and hotel rooms as in filthy ones,” Web MD continues.

Earls said the shelter, which is a nonprofit that receives no funding from Grayson County, did everything the exterminators told them to do to get rid of the pests. However, the procedures for controlling bedbugs can be a bit arduous and some of the shelter’s clients have a problem following the specific procedures to the letter. So controlling the situation became a bit of a problem.

With that in mind, Earls said, she decided to just shut down and handle the problem while she and the staff worked on updating the facility.

Part of that process will include bringing in a $5,000 heater that will be used to heat the infested rooms to temperatures between 120 and 150 degrees for half an hour or more. That, Teel said, kills the bedbugs, and anything else that is left in the room probably.

“It will be a process of going room by room and sealing it off,” Earls said.

She stressed, however, that the staff hasn’t seen a bedbug in about a week. Two former clients at the Shelter have even returned.

When facility reopens, others will notice new floors, refreshed paint, and 18 brand new beds that have been donated. Earls said she and the staff have done all of the work themselves with the help of a volunteer with experience in that type of work.

She said more volunteers would make the work go faster and allow the Shelter to open its doors quicker.

“We just want to make the shelter the best it can be,” Earls said.